FORT WAYNE – Expectations are as high as ever at Snider despite the loss of 37 seniors from a SAC championship and Class 5A state runner-up season.
“We had a good run last year,” senior defensive end Donavin O’Day said. “This year, we are going to use that loss at state to motivate us. Every day in the gym (during the summer) we thought about that loss and how it affected us. We worked so hard this summer and that helped push ourselves. We think about that every day to keep ourselves going.”
The Panthers went undefeated until a 39-14 loss to Lawrence Central in the 5A state title game last November at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Panthers have another large senior class of 29 waiting to step up and continue the program’s success. It will be up to all 29 to lead as a unit because coach Kurt Tippmann said the team will not name captains at the beginning of the year.
“It’s a common theme,” Tippmann said. “We lost a large senior class, but we always have a large senior class and it is now in their hands.
“We always lose a senior class that was the leaders of the program and for the most part were the leaders on the field as well in terms of production of play. The first meeting we had after the state championship game, they stood up in the room and said you are in charge of the program and it is your program. You are in charge of upholding the legacy of winning championships and the expectations that previous classes have left.”
O’Day said there’s still a positive vibe from last year’s postseason run, which included a 36-35 overtime comeback win against Fishers for the regional title.
“We know exactly what to do, and we have the momentum,” O’Day said.
“We know how to carry ourselves, and like in the Fishers game, we know never to give up. We can carry the vibe from last season into this season.”
One thing is sure, for the Panthers – another postseason run would take place in 5A.
Snider was on the fringe of the top 32 schools in the state enrollment-wise but will not be part of a move to the new Class 6A, but some of the Panthers’ postseason rivals will be.
“I can’t really tell you how it will turn out,” said Tippmann, who was on the coaches’ association committee that recommended the changes to the postseason. “We have always liked playing those perennial powers, that’s the history of our program, and maybe we will be able to create some new rivalries.”
Snider should have another stout defensive unit with O’Day and senior linebacker Rahju Blackmon returning.
“I am working on being a better leader, but we have plenty of skilled guys coming back,” O’Day said. “We lost a lot of talent last year, but we had a lot of depth too and people who were behind and the underclassmen, it is their time to shine.”
Also returning are senior offensive linemen Evan Roberts and Shane Hurt, senior linebacker Tiberious McGhee and senior running back Alec Reuille.